2 women accused of embezzling $50K from school

March 3, 2011 12:55:57 AM PST
Parents and teachers in the South Bay are calling a scheme by two women a betrayal of trust. They are accused of embezzlement -- swindling tens of thousands of dollars from the Parent Teacher Organization.

The two women were in charge of a lot of money and it was supposed to go directly to Trace Elementary School to support programs that otherwise might not exist.

Vanessa Eleana Reyes and Anne Zingale, who also goes by Anne Kempsky, are accused of stealing more than $50,000 from trace elementary school's Parent-Teacher Organization, or PTO. A few months ago, members noticed money was missing and unauthorized charges were made, to places like Target, Chuck 'E Cheese, and even a trip to LEGOLAND in Southern California.

"They couldn't believe it, almost couldn't believe their eyes when they first started seeing evidence of this and we, of course, looked deeper and the evidence became very convincing, very persuasive, overwhelming in fact," said attorney Bob Camors.

Trace Elementary has had its share of problems. Last year, an arson fire destroyed much of the school. Though the remodel continues, the money was earmarked for things like student field trips, P.E. teachers, and yard duty supervisors. Reyes is the PTO's former president and Zingale used to be the treasurer.

The treasurer is obviously in a charge of the money, so it was a huge disappointment.

"Yes, there is a relationship of trust there, they're entrusted with being responsible and making sure that money is inventoried and counted and kept up to date," said San Jose Police Sgt. Jason Dwyer.

Zingale, a clerk in the main office, was arrested on campus on Wednesday. Reyes moved to Southern California sometime last year and police have not tracked her down yet.

"Both individuals, everybody looked up to, were kind of tight with the organization," said parent Anne Phan.

The two women were familiar faces at Trace Elementary. Still, parents are outraged.

"These people are voted into these positions, which is even more scary because we put our trust into these people," said parent Marisela Armendariz.

Parents are also still reeling after another arrest last month. A childcare worker, not affiliated with the school, was accused of inappropriately touching girls in an afterschool program, which took place on campus.

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